Releasing trauma from the body is like coming out of the fog. Things look different, clearer. There is room for new awareness and realisations. There is also the grief that has been silenced all these years.

The terms Ambiguous Loss and Disenfranchised Grief describe losses for which there is not a socially acknowledged reason to grieve:

  • Our relationship is not recognised – the loss of a celebrity, a same sex partner, an ex spouse, a married lover, a distant or estranged relative.
  • The loss is hidden or not recognised – miscarriage, stillbirth, the loss of a pet, loss of mobility, loss of financial security and status.
  • Circumstances of the loss are stigmatised – suicide, abortion, adoption, death as a result of AIDS or overdose.
  • The way we grieve is met with disapproval – different cultures have different ideas about acceptable ways to grieve and the length of time it should take.

Victims of abuse and neglect, especially during childhood, are often disenfranchised. Without space and support to grieve the profound losses of relationship, safety, and childhood itself, grief goes underground.

This is complicated grief, a loss that triggers an earlier unresolved loss, compounding feelings of betrayal, powerlessness and hurt. It is then combined with the isolation of experiencing a depth of feelings that is not seen as acceptable.

There are no rituals to undertake for closure, there is little social support or validation of legitimate feelings. There is only a societal demand that we get over it immediately.

I send so much love to all of you who are hurting, wailing, longing, fearing, suffering, and falling apart. I acknowledge you, I witness your pain and I speak its name. You are not alone.

Here’s how to treat a grieving person, regardless of their loss, as outlined by writer Tim Lawrence:

  1. Listen. Practice the art of saying nothing. Embrace the power of acknowledgement.
  2. Stay. Don’t run away. Refuse the urge to flee.
  3. Don’t be an asshole.
  4. Repeat.

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